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Middle Tenn. St. Univ. drops discriminatory fees for student pro-life group after ADF letter

Pro-Life Collegians no longer required to pay security fees not charged to other groups
Published On: 10/18/2017

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — After receiving a letter from Alliance Defense Fund attorneys, Middle Tennessee State University has agreed to retract its discriminatory requirement that a pro-life student group pay a security fee for a campus display. ADF attorneys representing the student group, Pro-Life Collegians, argued that the fee was unconstitutional, noting that other student groups are not required to pay for campus security during their events.


“Pro-life student groups shouldn’t be penalized and discriminated against for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Joe Martins. “We are pleased that the officials at Middle Tennessee State University have changed their minds and refrained from singling out the Pro-Life Collegians for this type of fee. The courts have repeatedly ruled that as unconstitutional. The university has certainly done the right thing here in respecting the First Amendment rights of its students.”

Officials at MTSU approved the Pro-Life Collegians’ application to deliver its message through Justice for All pro-life exhibits on campus, but with a precondition that it must pay for security for this year’s event. Even though no written policy validates such charges, which aren’t required for other student group events, the university insisted that Pro-Life Collegians pay for security for its event.

In the letter submitted to MTSU officials, ADF attorneys argue that such a vague and unwritten standard empowers the university to enforce or waive the fee requirement based upon their approval or disapproval of a student group’s message. The letter also states that allowing the uncapped fee gives MTSU officials unlimited authority to silence and charge any disfavored group as they see fit, in violation of the free speech rights of students protected by the First Amendment.

“The precondition that PLC pay for security due to the nature of its [exhibit’s] message and the effect it may have on an audience is an unconstitutional burden on PLC’s First Amendment rights,” the letter stated. “Requiring a student group to pay government officials in order to gain access to a public forum clearly has an impermissible chilling effect on free speech.”

ADF attorneys have successfully defended legal situations involving pro-life displays from Justice for All on other university campuses, including Arizona State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Houston.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.     

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